Calls for probe into killing of BPO union organizer mount

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Calls for probe into killing of BPO union organizer mount
Litrato ni Alex Dolorosa, isang paralegal officer ng BPO Industry Employee's Network (BIEN) Pilipinas
Released / BIEN Pilipinas

MANILA, Philippines — Human Rights Watch is urging authorities to investigate the killing of trade unionist and labor rights defender Alex Dolorosa, who was found dead with multiple stab wounds on Monday.

Dolorosa’s work as a union organizer in BPO Industry Employee’s Network (BIEN) Pilipinas "and the fact that government authorities have targeted the organization for surveillance and red-tagging" should be taken into consideration by those probing Dolorosa’s murder, HRW senior researcher Carlos Conde said.

BPO workers in Bacolod and in BIEN Pilipinas have also condemned the killing of Dolorosa, who worked as a paralegal and was "instrumental" in the formation of BIEN’s Bacolod chapter.

"The manner of his murder reflects on the state of lawlessness and never-ending culture of impunity in the country," BIEN Pilipinas said in a statement, adding he was known as a labor organizer and that his killing may be related to his work with unions.

Conde said that while it is too early to pinpoint the motive behind Dolorosa’s killing, "it must be pointed out that [he] was a labor rights activist with BIEN Pilipinas who has done paralegal work to support labor cases filed by workers in the outsourcing industry."

"In fact, just days before he was killed, Dolorosa helped his colleagues win four labor cases in Bacolod City," Conde said. 

Dolorosa also fiercely defended the labor rights of BPO workers and called for improvements in the wages and working conditions for outsourcing employees. 

BPO workers’ security at risk 

BIEN Pilipinas pointed out that BPO workers like Dolorosa, many of whom work night shifts, remain vulnerable to threats to their life and other security risks.

"Our security, as BPO workers, is always put at risk whenever we commute to work at night," the group said, scoring what they said was lack of government action to keep night shift workers safe.

The worker’s union also said that Dolorosa’s death follows the filing of "trumped-up charges" against two of its members. 

"All we want to do is to organize unions in the BPO industry — the government doesn’t seem to want us to do this," the group added.

International solidarity

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) — a union based in the United-States for diverse types of workers — also issued a statement condemning the death of Dolorosa, who they described as a staunch defender of social justice and LGBTQ+ rights activist.

His death reinforces the Philippines’ reputation as one of the deadliest countries in the world for worker organizers, the group said.

"CWA has worked with international unions like BIEN to build solidarity and improve the standards for all workers in our industries and beyond. Through our Eduardo Diaz Union-To-Union International Solidarity Fund, we provide financial support for BIEN and its organizers like Alex, which is why we consider this an attack on a member of our broad CWA family," the group said.

CWA also called for the immediate passage of the Philippines Human Rights Act in the US Congress and urged President Joe Biden to condemn the record (of) labor and human rights under the administration of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr., who is set to visit the White House next week. 

The Philippines has one of the most booming BPO industries in the world, making up 10-15 % of the global BPO market with a headcount of 1.44 million employees, according to the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines.  

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